If 10-year-old Clara Magdalena Egler were in Germany, she would take part in her gymnastics and acrobatics classes, but her mother hasn’t seen her for 6 months and she thinks she’s in Paraguay. Lara Valentina Blank, another missing German girl, would celebrate her 11th birthday with her family and neighbors, but the last thing her father knows about her is that, like Clara, she has been missing since November 27 last year and is probably being hidden. in some anti-vaccine German-Paraguayan community.
Clara and Lara entered Paraguay together with two parents who no longer have custody: the couple formed by Clara’s father, Andreas Rainer Egler, 46, and Lara’s mother, Anna Maria Egler, an opera singer with the surname born Scharpf, 35 years old.
They brought their respective daughters to Paraguay without the proper authorization of the other parents. “Presumably, they intended to live in some anti-vaccine community in the interior of the country (…) because they belong to anti-vaccine groups and deny the existence of covid-19,” he reported. the Children’s Rights Coordinator of Paraguay (CDIA), the NGO that accompanied the search for the parents from the beginning.
“She loves being with her friends, she always needs friends to do stunts,” says Anne Maja Reiniger-Egler (Clara’s mother) in English in Asuncion, where she is constantly looking for her daughter. And where this Monday, at a press conference at the Prosecutor’s Office, she cried in front of the cameras asking the Paraguayan people to help her find her daughter. In February she came for the first time with her current husband and with Filip Blank (Lara’s father). They did their best to explain the case to the German and Paraguayan authorities. They also searched through Paraguay, without success so far.
In both countries, all legal and criminal proceedings were initiated for the return of the girls to Germany. And also the extradition process of Andreas Rainer Egler and Anna María Egler, who are required by the German justice “for the commission of the punishable act of abduction of persons,” according to the CDIA. And they have a “red alert” for arrest in Paraguay, according to the police at a press conference.
The German justice revoked the parental authority of Andreas Rainer Egler and Anna María Egler and granted exclusive parental authority to Anne and Filip, respectively.
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Both Anne and Filip had a fluid relationship with their ex-partners, even a good one: “We were the best separated parents. The best parents Lara could have, ”Filip tells her ex in a video posted now on social media where he begs her to come back. Anne and Filip do not understand how and why they suddenly disappeared, trying not to leave a trace.
Initially, the couple sought to settle in a neighborhood of German origin located near La Colmena, in the Paraguayan countryside, about three hours by car from the capital. “Currently, it is suspected that they are in the area of Villarrica or Colonia Independencia,” say the authorities, areas also of German communities, most of them centenarians, but which do not stop receiving new visitors who take advantage of the laxity of Paraguayan laws to not get vaccinated or hide from the laws of their country of origin. Although the authorities do not rule out that Andreas and Anna María have fled with the girls to other areas or illegally crossed the border from Paraguay to Brazil or Argentina.
“We also have quite closed German communities that make the investigative task a bit difficult,” the commissioner and deputy chief of Anti-Kidnapping of Paraguay, Mario Vallejos, said at the press conference. The officer requested citizen cooperation and guaranteed the secret reception of information.
“Andreas, please put an end to this situation that robs me and so many of us of our sleep. Please contact us or the lawyers or someone you trust. Let us find a solution together. Clara and Lara surely do not feel very well with this situation. It cannot be that they continue the rest of their childhood escaping or running away,” Anne told reporters in Asunción. “To the Paraguayan people I place all my hopes. Please help us, I am a desperate mother,” she added.
disappearances on the rise
The German Embassy expressed its concern about this case and possible similar situations. The Coordinator for the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Ministry of Public Defense are advising and accompanying families from the outset.
The disappearance of these girls seems not to be an isolated case. The number is increasing since the covid-19 pandemic. According to the German Federal Office of Justice, in 2017 the fathers or mothers snatched their children from the other parent in 186 cases; in 2020 there were 242 new cases of child abduction; in 2021, they rose to more than 250.
During the pandemic, Germany has become the European nation with the largest number of expatriates in Paraguay. They are already the third largest immigrant community in the country, behind Brazilians and Argentines. At least 1,644 Germans completed their settlement process in Paraguay in 2021, as reported to EL PAÍS by the Migration Directorate. Almost triple that of 2020. And, as of March 30 of this year, another 575 had completed this process.
Some religious and right-wingers see Paraguay as a refuge from vaccines. Officially, right now there are 7,731 Germans living in Paraguay, but it is not known how many there really are due to the permeable borders of this country, where anyone who wants to can enter or leave by walking or sailing through one of the the 3,739 kilometers of river border and terrestrial that it shares with Brazil, Argentina or Bolivia.
The German embassy in Asunción handles numbers different from those of the Paraguayan government: the German consul Frank Gauls estimates that between 22,000 and 30,000 Germans live in Paraguay. And he adds that, of the country’s seven million inhabitants, up to 300,000 are of German origin, as he declared to the Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color.
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